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Consumer Reports auto experts report from the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Volkswagen CrossBlue

What is it? Based on the platform from the U.S.-built Passat sedan, the six-seat CrossBlue concept gives an early look at the forthcoming midsized SUV designed for the American market. Larger than both the Tiguan and the Touareg, the upcoming production version will be priced between the two.

The concept features a plug-in, diesel-electric powertrain. Featuring a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine and a 9.8-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted in the center tunnel, it has two electric motors, with a 54-hp unit driving the front wheels in conjunction with the engine and a 114-hp motor driving the rear wheels alone. This powerplant produces some big numbers: 516 ft-lbs torque and 305 hp. Potential range on ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel is 661 miles.

VW says the battery will give the SUV a range of 14 miles on electricity before the diesel engine takes over and the CrossBlue begins running as a hybrid. When running as a hybrid, the CrossBlue uses a version of Volkswagen’s six-speed twin-clutch automated-manual gearbox. Volkswagen estimates that the CrossBlue will get 35 mpg combined and 89 MPGe in electric mode.

Inside the concept, which has “the spaciousness and flexibility of a minivan,” according to VW, is a package of safety gear with up to 12 airbags. The production version will have the option of a three-seat second row, to allow seating for seven occupants. The front passenger seat folds flat to allow objects up to 118 inches long to be carried. The 10.2-inch touchscreen includes a 3D display for the navigation route or the built-in media center.

What is new or notable?
This type of powertrain is something that many buyers ask about, but manufacturers say is too expensive to produce. Expect that VW will offer at least one conventional engine, likely the mainstream 3.6-liter V6 or possibly a turbodiesel without the plug-in hybrid system. And despite descriptions of the CrossBlue as a “cruiser,” “minivan,” and “perfect for the weekend run to the home improvement store,” VW says the concept does have off-road ability.

CR’s take: Despite the “German engineering” tagline in VW’s American ads, when we tested the U.S. designed and built Passat we found it much less compelling and refined than its German-engineered forebear. Hopefully VW can make some significant improvements to prevent the CrossBlue from suffering the same fate.

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